Why is it many individuals rationalize that an ‘emotional affair’ is not a true betrayal of their spouse? Perhaps, because this type of affair is often referred to as an ‘affair of the heart’ or a ‘non-physical’ affair. Thus, somehow making it sound more genteel and less threatening.
Make no mistake. An affair is an affair.
A more impactful phrase would be ‘emotional infidelity.’ This moniker more aptly delivers the harsh brutality these type of dalliances can exert upon marriages.
What a non-physical affair may lack sexually, it makes up for emotionally. The entire relationship is built upon sharing secrets with someone other than a spouse. This in itself is clearly a warning sign. A married or committed individual is seeking intimacy and a connection to a person other than their significant other.
The cheating spouse justifies their behavior, blaming it on feeling misunderstood or ignored or not in sync with their spouse. They convince themselves that engaging in an emotional affair is less offensive than physical infidelity. On the contrary, the betrayed spouse often considers it more damaging personally and to the marriage. They instinctively understand the difference between physical and emotional intimacy and the true danger.
Perhaps this quote best summarizes an ‘affair of the heart.’
"A tell-tale sign of an emotional affair is when a partner’s emotional needs are met outside of the primary relationship” - Dr. John Moore
This is all encompassing. It goes right to the ‘heart’ (pun intended) of what an emotional affair truly is. It strips away the excuses…'just friends’ or ‘work relationship’ and so on. It directly addresses the elephant in the room.
The bottom line? If you are relying on another individual to meet your emotional needs in any manner, you have crossed the proverbial line.
It is not innocent banter and flirtation. It is not bending a sympathetic and attractive ear. It can have a catastrophic domino effect on your relationship or marriage.
What is even more worrisome is technology and social media have added strength to this type of infidelity. However, make no mistake, it is dangerous, be it a text, an e-mail, a cup of coffee, lunch or spoken conversation. The threat to a marriage or committed relationship is real.
These are the true dangers of an emotional affair.
The Increased Potential of a Physical Affair
An non-physical affair can become emotional foreplay for an actual physical affair. In fact, these types of supposed ‘friendships’ often lead to sexual affairs. The more secrets are shared, the more intimacy developed, and the bond strengthened, the further the ‘friendship’ lines blur and lead to more.
Additionally, these types of emotional affairs typically involve complaining about one’s spouse. This solidifies the cheaters need for empathy and cements the affair even further. The cheater feels understood. They begin to feel they are filling the bulging emotional pothole that led them to initially stray. The cheater has found someone who understands them when they believe their spouse no longer does.
The more this intimacy develops the more likely a spouse may feel connected and further fantasize about this ‘other’ person. It may shift from hoping to run into them more at the office to what could happen outside of the office.
The Further Derailment of Your Relationship
Whether a person is dating or married, an emotional affair will further endanger a relationship. The opportune word being ‘further.’ Why? A healthy and happy couple is generally experiencing a sense of feeling connected, in-tune and intimately involved with one another.
It is the endangered relationship that is experiencing a period of disconnect, detachment and lack of emotional intimacy. This is the individual and/or couple that is at risk for infidelity. Therefore, a person willing to connect with someone other than their spouse is potentially threatening the entire future of an already ‘at risk’ relationship. A compromised marriage becomes even more compromised.
The emotional intimacy in the union will decrease and the emotional distance will increase.
This is a lethal manifestation in a relationship. The most intimate connection a person should experience is with their significant other.
A visual interpretation...
An individual should be walking emotionally towards their spouse, not away from them. The physical proximity should match the emotional proximity. An ‘affair of the heart’ is inserting another individual between two spouses. This person is in the way. They are blocking the spousal road. As long as they are there, the distance will be insurmountable.
The Pollution of Your Relationship
A relationship needs to be protected by both individuals. In order for that to happen, two people need to be conscious of what they bring into their world. Too often, unhappy and unsatisfied individuals believe they deserve to have this extramarital comfort. They forget the fact they made a commitment to be one and not two. They choose to ignore they live in a union.
This means they need to protect their spouse and not just themselves. Simply put, betrayal, deception, dishonesty, and secrets are relationship pollutants.
In other words, despite the biggest dangers of physical affair and further derailment of the relationship, why would anyone want to gamble with intimately toxic ingredients? It will not result in a good mixture.
The expression that a body is your temple so take care of it can also be applied to relationships. Be cautious of what is put into a relationship. Are the actions ones that will emotionally pollute or clean up the marriage?
A non-physical affair riddled with toxic relationship pollutants is difficult to clean up.
At some point, this type of infidelity garnered its own classification. The workplace and the internet just make it more accessible not credible. There is zero way to justify this type of affair. A secret that will harm a spouse is both deceptive and disloyal.
It is not friendship.
Christian pastor, author and educator, Chuck Swindoll is quoted as saying “Adultery occurs in the head long before it occurs in the bed.”